Take a Hike: Utilizing Excursions to Create a Positive Work-Life Balance

Matthew Woodstock, Florida International University, Biological Sciences, North Miami, FL, United States
Academics often have multiple responsibilities (e.g., teaching, multiple research projects, advising) that provide challenges outside of life’s everyday problems. Because of this, the poor management of stress can result in reductions in productivity and an overall negative experience in academia. To reduce stress, it is important to find a healthy alternative to work. However, under the pressure of impending deadlines, these alternative activities are often replaced by excess work. As a participant in the Limnology and Oceanography Research Exchange (LOREX) program, I sought out experiences that would not be possible at my home institution. The result was not just a collection of friendships and memories, but also a new outlook on the structure of a successful work-life balance. Presented here, will be a few of those lessons through the lens of a story describing my six-week experience in Halifax, Nova Scotia, as an international exchange student at Dalhousie University. First, ask questions and have discussions with your peers (even if they do not conduct the same research you do). An innocent conversation can lead to new ideas, or solutions to old problems. Second, do not allow yourself to remain stuck on a problem for extensive periods of time. Take short, productive walks. While on these walks, have a notebook to write down all of those possible solutions. Quick breaks reset the mind, and you may find yourself feverishly writing in your notebook. When ready, return to your workspace with a list of ideas to explore. Finally, utilize off-days through excursions and special events to eliminate stress. By developing positive stress-removal habits, researchers can develop a better work-life balance that ultimately allows them to have a more productive and enjoyable experience during their work time.